Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Forgot her Pepsi

This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 90 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.

Mom was bummed on Sunday, when we talked. She'd walked the half mile to the grocery store to pick up a few things. That got her into hot water with the staff at her complex. They don't want her wandering so far away. Her short walks around the building, next door to church or a few doors away to the sub shop are within reason. But taking off without letting anyone know, isn't well received. But she wasn't bummed out for getting into trouble. Turns out, the most important item on her non-existent list was Diet Pepsi -- and she forgot it.

Diet Pepsi was always her drink of choice. We never had Coke in the house. Maybe root beer, but not Coke. Mom made root beer a few times and that was quite a chore. She used herbs and roots like sassafras. I don't remember how it tasted or if I ever even tried it. I do remember she had a bottle capper contraption and I think she reused glass bottles (yay). Of course she had wooden cases to hold the bottles of root beer, which we dragged around the lawn so the brew would get the right amount of sun, without having the bottles blow up. Back then, there was just one kind of Pepsi and I bet she would've attempted making her own, if she had the recipe. I don't think she made root beer very often. The whole process was time consuming and a bit of a hassle.

So, she was in trouble for the unauthorized trip, but that didn't bother her much. She'd gone to church, walked the dog, walked to the grocery store and stopped on her way home at the sub shop for a visit and to get a sub to take home. 

She was in a hopeful mood all day, as the weather cooled and she realized the upcoming season is winter. Hopeful somehow she'd get to go South. I just let her go on about the likelihood of that happening. I asked if she got the pictures I sent her. She didn't think so and still didn't think she got them when I talked to her again today (Wednesday). She said she'd check around her apartment as sometimes she lays things down and things become lost. Oh well, I tried.

Most of Sunday's conversation was a rehash. We did talk about winter, and how it is different when you are a kid. I used to spend an entire day outside, especially when the ice skating was good. A few of my friends and I would spend hours shoveling snow off the ice-covered swamp or the Mill Pond. Most of the time it would take so long, we would have little time to actually skate. But it was fun and of course we'd be soaking wet and freezing by supper time.

For some reason we talked about one of dad's old pals, Earl Kinney. He was always at the farm on Saturdays, while his wife Arlene worked at WT Grants. He would go hunting, I guess -- never paid that much attention. I asked mom how Earl never knew his wife Arlene smoked cigarettes. Everyone else knew and you could smell it on her. Mom sighed and said he probably did know, but sometimes it is best not to say anything, than to constantly fight about it.

So, today, she reported her mood as feeling lonesome and discouraged. Between her best friend not wanting to take mom in her car anymore because of the dog hair and mom's preoccupation over  going to a warmer climate for the winter, she's lonesome and discouraged. 

I get her off those subjects to talk about the weather. She says it is chilly. The sun is shining and there isn't any wind. It is bright and nice, so she is able to take her usual walks with her dog, Marley. I called at eleven. Her big trip of the day is at mid afternoon when she sits on a bench and watches traffic. she sees some kind of pattern in the traffic, but I didn't understand what she meant. Something about a line of vans, she thinks are traveling together.

Then the school buses start streaming by and she waves at the kids on the buses.

She talked about cold weather and how it can snow any day now. She remembers one time when someone was having the family Thanksgiving at their house and the weather was so bad, snow so deep, no one could get got out. I remembered a few Halloweens where we dressed like bums in order to wear a lot of clothes to keep dry and warm.

I told her about my first trick or treating experience. My brother Dick and a friend took me and a neighbor out. I think I was 6 or 7. Dick told us he didn't want to be seen with us little brats, so they would hide behind a tree, while we went to the door. Dick was 12 or 13. At every house, the people would say they couldn't believe our parents let us go trick or treating by ourselves. I would point to the trees and tell them my brother was hiding. The people would laugh and give us an extra treat for my brother. I shared some of the extra treats with him.

Mom liked that story. Her dog started barking at her door and she wasn't sure if it was Meals on Wheels, the super to finally fix her closet door or a guest. Made her a bit anxious. We said our love yous and goodbyes. Until our next visit.

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